Thursday, December 8, 2011

People in Nzara age quickly and often die at very young ages by American standards. A child in Nzara was buried yesterday. She came to school sick, became worse as the day went on and then died within two hours of being brought home from a cause which is still not identified. The deaths that occur are often from easily preventable causes (a burst appendix, infections , diarrhea, etc.) if adequate medical care had been available. Many people suffer chronic pain from bad teeth, backs, or disease. Virtually everyone has recurrent bouts of malaria that cause them to be very tired, have horrendous headaches, and be in great pain. One person told us that his father-in-law had just died and that he was very very old. We asked him how old and were told that he was 67. When we reminded this person that we were both 68 he could hardly believe it and told us that people as old as ourselves usually walk around with a long stick to lean on.

If you were to ask what Zande people do in their leisure hours I would have to say that the most common pastime is to simply sit in a circle of friends or family (often divided by sex) and converse and laugh with one another. Laughter can be heard at all times of day or night. Dominos and a few card games are popular. People love to watch local football (soccer) matches. Some men will watch televised international football games, war movies, music videos or sitcoms in the bars/restraunts courtesy of a satalite dish. Transistor radios are everywhere and feature a lot of American pop music, raggie from Jamaica, and Sudanese (English or local Arabic), Kenyan and Tanzanian (Swahili) and Ugandan (Lugandan or English) pop songs.

Market days are big social occasions. In the very remote areas they are typically held on Sundays after worship services in the shade of some trees. In towns like Nzara, the largest market days are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In the bigger towns market goods are available every day. The market in a city usually has a large open area where local farmers bring their produce to sell. Near this open area are shops that sell boxed foods and other goods of interest such as bike parts, clothes and shoes of all types, house wares, batteries, soda pop, 50 Kilo bags of rice or flour, building materials and hardware, etc. Very few shops specialize in selling just one category of items. Everyone seems to have a very mixed selection which means that the shopper has to spend a lot of time wandering from shop to shop trying to find, for instance, a light bulb of the right size and character. Mixed in with all these small shops are a few restaurants or bars. On the edge of the markets or along the major roads one can find small booths that sell the charcoal or wood used for cooking and the bundles of cut straw or grass used to roof the mud-brick homes.traunts courtesy of a satalite dish. Transistor radios are everywhere and feature a lot of American pop music, raggie from Jamaica, and Sudanese (English or local Arabic), Kenyan and Tanzanian (Swahili) and Ugandan (Lugandan or English) pop songs.

Most people live out in the country or rural areas rather than in villages or towns. As you travel down any of the major or minor roads you see paths large enough for a bike, motor cycle or a person to get to their homes. Frequently the path to a compound goes right through the middle of several neighbor’s compounds. In the cities there are simply more compounds that are closer to one another. There are no streets, township or city/county roads laid out on stiff mathematically determined grids with sidewalks and street or barnyard lights. Increasingly there are people who can afford to build brick homes with iron sheet roofs and concrete floors. These might have several rooms, tile floors (concrete is next to impossible to keep clean), glass and screened in windows, heavy metal doors, electricity and fans run by generator power and TV/internet services courtesy of a satellite dish. These homes are typically built closer to the main roads because their owners also have cars and need ready access to highways. Most people are still dreaming of the time when they can have just one small tukal with a concrete floor and iron sheet roof some where in their compound. When one flies over Uganda all one can see is zinc metal roofs shining in the sun. One knows when you have crossed the border into south Sudan because virtually all the roofs of the tukals are still grass. The 40 years of war has set this country way behind the development of its neighbors.

Virtually everything Karen and I buy in the shops is made outside of Sudan. The packaged mango juice and concrete is made in Uganda, the jam and tea is from Kenya, batteries and ink jet cartridges from the US, and just about everything else from China. The trucks all seem to be second hand Japanese exports. Land Rover and Toyota seems to have captured the biggest share of the car market. Interestingly there do not seem to be anything that we would call crafts items for sale anywhere. There are virtually no tourists and so there is no one to buy such things. We were at the Yabua church one day and saw some beautiful black clay pots. We eventually found the person who had made them and ordered four but in that process discovered that our request was a first.

People frequently asked me when I was home in the fall about the wild animals I had seen. I had to disappoint them and tell them that there are none in the area that we are living in. There are no monkeys, lions, elephants, zebras, crocodiles, etc. What animals there might have been have either been eaten for food during the long civil wars or because they destroyed or damaged crops. This is not to say that South Sudan has no such animals. I have read stories about wild life in certain remote areas such as in the northern portions of Nzara county.

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